A few weeks back I made a frantic phone call to a friend. This friendship is in its beginning phases so I hesitated at first. Eventually, necessity won out and I had to call her.
When she answered, I took a long pause because I knew tears were coming. My older son had been hit in the head with a basketball at his try-outs and was showing clear signs of a concussion. My husband was traveling and I needed help. I had no idea how long an ER visit would take and needed someone to supervise my youngest. Of course, my new friend was gracious and swooped in with the save.
A diagnosis of a concussion was forthcoming. It was the right call to take him to the ER. I left there with a plan to keep him healthy and safe. As the days unfolded after his concussion, I had a powerful realization. Despite melting down and showing vulnerability, this had no impact on my ability to problem solve and take action.
Through the years I have cringed in embarrassment when I become overly emotional. While it may be true that crying on the phone to a new friend is not ideal, it showed that I am human. I was scared and for good reason. Head injuries are serious and watching my son’s confusion was deeply unsettling. My new friend had no judgment, only concern. The harsh judgments were coming from inside of me.
I cannot change how society perceives strength as a whole, but I can certainly show myself some kindness. Being tearful did not impede me from doing what needed to be done.
This is true for all of us. With the holidays ahead and all our added responsibilities, it is okay if we shed a stressful tear or two. If it happens, show yourself some compassion, allow for your emotions to be and get on with it. Leave your judgments at the door. You are doing your best and that is more than enough.
Two other thoughts I found helpful when I was in crisis-mode were the following:
Break Action into Small Steps
When I thought about the big picture I became overwhelmed. I had to focus on the immediate and make several, small-scale decisions. For example, I focused first on who would care for my youngest, then, I moved onto locating the nearest ER (we are still new to this area), until I had made enough moment-to-moment decisions that the big picture took care of itself.
All you can do is what is right in front of you. You do that enough and eventually you will be through the other side of whatever challenge you are facing.
Let Some Things Go
Perfectionism can trip you up during a crisis. I would catch myself getting hung up on details, like if my youngest would get his homework done or worrying I was taking too long at the drugstore waiting on a prescription. I had to make space for some missteps and inconveniences. The unexpected will do that to you. It will take your tried-and-true routine and turn it upside-down. Do not expect life to look a certain way and if it starts to overwhelm you, go back to the step above. Break it down until you can manage it.
Thankfully, my oldest is doing well. There have been follow-up appointments and exercises he is doing at home to improve reaction-time and speed healing.
I am grateful for my friend’s help and with time, my son will make a full recovery.
My pride is going to take a bit longer to heal. I am trying to undo a lifetime of believing that shedding tears equals weakness.
Tears are tears. Nothing more, nothing less.
Tears only matter if we think they do.
This season, I plan to focus my attention elsewhere.
Happy Holidays to All!
Written by Diana DeVaul, MSW and Parent